Philosophers struggled with the notion of time from the dawn of human civilization. Physicists of today declared the problem of time the number one problem in theoretical physics. Jewish mysticism has much to say about time.[1]

Rabbi ayyim Vital, in the name of the Arizal, quotes a verse:

בִּטְחוּ בַיהוָה עֲדֵי-עַד, כִּי בְּיָה יְהוָה צוּר עוֹלָמִים

Isaiah 26:4

The standard English translation of this verse, by JPS is:

Trust ye in the LORD for ever, for the LORD is GOD, an everlasting Rock.

Isaiah 26:4

This is not a very good translation because it doesn’t tell you what specific names of G-d are used in the pasuk. Let us spell out the names in this pasuk to see what is going on:

Trust ye in Havyah (Y-H-W-H) for ever, for Kah (Y-H) is Havayah (Y-H-W-H), an everlasting Tzur (‘Rock’).

Here I use the name Havayah (Hashem), as it is customary in Hassidism, for the proper name of G-d, Tetragrammaton. Note that the word tzur, besides meaning a “rock,” can also mean a “form” or “to form.” Also note that the word olamim, besides meaning “forever” or “everlasting” (as used here), can mean “worlds.” Using these alternative translations, the Arizal interprets this verse mystically:[2]

Trust ye in Havyah (Y-H-W-H) for ever, for by means of the [name] Kah (Y-H), Havyah (Y-H-W-H), formed (tzur) the worlds.

In other words, the Arizal reinterprets this verse to say that G‑d created all the worlds by means of His name Kah (Y-H).

Allow me to offer another possible interpretation of this verse. Let us recall that the Sefer Yetzirah identifies past with the sefirah of omah and future with the sefirah of Binah:

A depth of beginning, a depth of end.

Sefer Yeẓirah 1:5

Where the “beginning” is a euphemism for past and the “end” is a euphemism for future. They are respectively identified with sefirot omah and binah.

Turning to the name Kah (Y-H), we note that it is made of the first two letters of the proper name Havayah—Tetragrammaton—yud and heh.  These two letters denote sefirot omah and binah. Armed with this knowledge, we can now interpret the verse in Isaiah as follows:

Trust you in the Eternal (Y-H-W-H) forever, for by [combining] past (yud) and future (heh), the Eternal (Y-H-W-H), formed (tzur) the continuum of time (eternity).

I translate here the Tetragrammaton as the Eternal because this is what this name literally means—hayah (is), hoveh (was), yihyeh (will be). Furthermore, the two letters, yud and heh we interpret not as a distinct name of G-d, Kah, but as the first two letters of the Tetragrammaton indicating sefirot omah (past) and binah (future). Bringing them together as one unit, yud-heh, I interpret as combining past and future.

Last, I interpret the word olamim (“forever”) as the continuum of time—eternity, formed by combining past and future. Indeed, as we see in Sefer Yeirah quoted above, a depth of beginning and a depth of end means the past stretching into infinity and the future extending into infinity. Combining the two gives us a complete infinite continuum of time stretching from an infinite past to an infinite future. According to this interpretation of the verse, Isaiah speaks of the formation of time by combining past and future together.

A curious reader may wonder, “But where is the present?” Indeed, the present is missing in this picture; time is viewed as the sum of past and future. As it is written:

From the rear and the front You encompassed me. . . .

Psalms 139:5


From the past and the future You encompassed me.

The present is the plus sign between the past and the future, as it where. Note that in my essay, “Space – Between Future and Past,” I suggested that there is no present as a temporal category. Instead, three-dimensional physical space sandwiched between the past and the future plays the role of the present.[3] I later learned that Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, expressed the same idea (that there is no present, only past and future).[4]

My proposed interpretation of the verse in Isaiah fits particularly well with interpreting the word Va’etḥanan because this word is followed by “at that time,” hinting allegorically that Va’etḥanah is somehow connected to the notion of time.[5]


[1] On this blog, we devote a considerable amount of writing to the nature of time. See, for example, my essays “On the Nature of Time and the Age of the Universe,” (2005) (; “Space – Between Future and Past,” (June 13th, 2019), (; “Sanctuaries in Space and Time,” (March 14th, 2021), (; “Metaphysics of Time in the Eyes of Philosophy and Kabbalah,” (July 21st, 2023) (

[2] Rabbi Hayyim Vital, Liqutei Torah, (also Sefer HaLiqutim) Parshat Va’etḥanan; see also glosses in Rabbi Mosheh Wisnefsky, Apples from the Orchard, (Thirty Seven Books, 2019), p. 851.

[3] Alexander Poltorak “Space – Between Future and Past,” (June 13th, 2019), (

[4] Commenting on the phrase in the liturgy, “G­‑d is the Ruler, G­‑d ruled, G­‑d will rule forever and ever,” the Rebbe points out the words “ruled” (molach) and “will rule” (yimloch) are verbs, whereas the word “ruler” (melech) is not a verb but a noun. This, according to the Rebbe, points out to the absence of present time—there are only past and future. See Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Torah Menachem, 5735 (1974-1975), Simchat Torah. (I am grateful to my teacher and friend, Rabbi Hirsh Rabbisky, for pointing this out to me.)

[5] The Arizal quotes a midrash that states that the distance from Earth to the first heaven is a journey of 500 years (Haggigah 13a, Pesḥim 94b). The gematria (“numerical value”) of the name Kah used in the verse of Isaiah quoted above is 15—together 515—the gematria of the word Va’etḥanah.

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